It’s part of the ritual for tech companies who achieve a certain status in the world this day and age, whether riding solely on the waves of hype or by making a ton of money, to get targeted by trigger-happy patent owners at one point or another.
Well, Foursquare, today’s the day.
Foursquare Labs, Inc., the company behind the popular check-in service, has been slapped with its first patent infringement lawsuit by a company called Mobile Commerce Framework.
I’d link to the latter’s website, but patent trolls usually don’t even bother to have those – they’d rather spend their time suing companies who actually make and/or sell something – and this one is no exception. Funnily enough, it looks like the company was simply named after the title of the patent-in-suit – how’s that for creativity?
On April 6, 2010, Mobile Commerce Framework (MCF) was issued US Patent No. 7,693,752 by the USPTO. In summary, this patent describes:
a subscription-based system for providing commerce information for one or more mobile devices for one or more merchants. Some techniques employed feature a subscription-based method for presenting commercial resources to a mobile device.
The method involves receiving mobile device user information relating to a geographic location to locate one or more merchants within a subscription-based shopping network, and receiving mobile device user information relating to a merchant type within the subscription-based shopping network.
According to MCF, Foursquare infringes its patent by creating and distributing mobile apps that can be used by people to obtain information and offers from merchants by searching, based on their physical location and merchant type.
If this sounds like what a ton of mobile application developers are making and distributing these days, then you’re not the only one – I hope MCF isn’t just looking to score a precedent so they can start targeting more companies.
Mobile Commerce Framework is asking for monetary damages and that “Foursquare be directed to withdraw from distribution all infringing products, and that all infringing products or materials be impounded or destroyed”. The complaint is embedded below.
MCF is represented by Jonathan Hangartner, owner of X-Patents. We’ve contacted Foursquare for comment and will update when we hear back.
Hat tip goes to patent news site PriorSmart.
UPDATE: Foursquare issued this comment: Foursquare believes this lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend itself.
Foursquare is a geographical location based social network that incorporates gaming elements. Users share their location with friends by “checking in” via a smartphone app or by text message. Points are awarded for checking in at various venues. Users can connect their Foursquare accounts to their Twitter and Facebook accounts, which can update when a check in is registered. By checking in a certain number of times, or in different locations, users can collect virtual badges. In addition, users...